By DR. JAIME C. LAYA
My first trip abroad (and first plane ride) was in 1959 for graduate study in the US. It was on a Pan Am propeller plane—no jets yet. We took off at about 10 a.m. and it was already dark when we landed in Guam. We got to Honolulu before noon the next day and arrived in San Francisco about 4 a.m. early the following morning. It took about 30 hours, more than double today’s and with two night times—one between Guam and Honolulu and the other between Honolulu and San Francisco.
It was then that an Indian classmate read my palm and predicted, among other things, that I would go places. He got it right and I’ve been in about forty countries, at first as an academic, then as government official, consultant, business executive, and nowadays as company director and lolo. Many trips are memorable.
Consulting work brought me to Nepal several times. One time, a little boy stuck to me while walking around Durbar Square in Patan. He hospitably pointed out highlights of graphic carvings on various buildings, including one where the male star was an enthusiastic billy goat.
Once I presided at a meeting of a United Nations body. Sessions were held in the Economic and Social Council Conference Hall at the UN Headquarters Building in New York. You can’t help feeling important when banging the gavel as respectful tourists filed past behind a glass window.
I wanted to see the Palacio de Aranjuez and so we all went—my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren. With a bunch of other tourists, a serious-looking guide took us around the hushed rooms, antique furniture, and precious objects shielded from rowdy tourists by velvet covered ropes on stanchions. Isabel, then age four, was not museum-broken and knocked over one stanchion, which then pulled down, one after the other, the 20 others ranged round the gilded salon—a real domino effect, only louder. In the shocked silence, her parents disowned poor Isabel. The little thing was stunned at the havoc she caused and was all set to bawl. I quickly picked her up, everyone laughed and all was well.
President Ferdinand E. Marcos asked Mrs. Marcos to undertake some diplomatic missions and I was asked to join once or twice. In Salzburg, Austria, the mayor gave a dinner in her honor at the former Archbishop’s Palace. The way up was via a long straight staircase. A Mozart trumpet fanfaren began when she set foot on the bottom step and continued all the way, ending precisely as she reached the very top. Dinner was in a painted chamber lit by hundreds of candles. After dinner, everybody was led down a long and freezing cold stone corridor (it was winter), to the gallery of a large, bare, and dark chapel. The only light was a candle down below on the altar. Then a high, high soprano voice broke the stillness. Just one song, a capella, and the evening ended. That was style.
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